THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has come up with a policy that will ensure the country resumes electoral processes even under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, which previously affected the holding of political activities for almost two years.
Under the Covid-19 policy, ZEC officers have been trained to preside over the polls in strict adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols, to protect not only themselves but also the voters.
In March last year, electoral activities were suspended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed more than a thousand lives in Zimbabwe and also wreaked livelihoods.
Elections were suspended as part of a cocktail of measures to beat back caseloads of the pandemic that also forced the Government to impose lockdowns.
However, with the cloud seemingly clearing, and on the back of a nationwide vaccination programme, ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba yesterday told an inter-party liaison workshop meeting in Harare that the commission is ready to conduct by-elections using the Covid-19 policy.
“For today’s meeting, we have a demonstration of polling station procedures for the sole reason of showing the political parties that we do have a Covid-19 policy, which we have put in place. We have trained our presiding officers in conducting elections using our Covid-19 policy.
“We have several scenarios, we did demonstrations, they were allowed to ask questions. As a commission, we are ready to conduct by-elections and all elections and electoral processes using our Covid-19 policy which means Covid-19 compliant electoral processes.
“We are not only on complying with Covid-19 policies for registered voters, we are also looking at our presiding officers — those that we send on the ground — to ensure that they have Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), sanitisers and masks to ensure they are also safe and that they conduct their duties in a way that is compliant with Covid-19 regulations,” said Justice Chigumba.
Zimbabwe is warming up to the by-elections that President Mnangagwa hinted will be held in the first quarter of next year, with harmonised elections set for 2023.
As of October 22, the country had a total of 133 elective by-elections at National Assembly and local authority levels, most of which were necessitated by recalls in the MDC, deaths and expulsions.
Justice Chigumba added that Treasury has availed enough funds for the by-elections.
“We are prepared. We have received sufficient funding from the Treasury to do all our procurement, ballot papers, ink, and what we are looking at right now is sufficient procurement of sanitisers, masks among others.
“We are also going to conduct training. We will shortly be seconding civil servants, Public Service Commission. We will send people for training not only for by-elections but polling station marking and pre-delimitation exercise,” she said.
At the workshop, Zanu PF was represented by the party’s Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Fortune Chasi, MDC-T by Ms Ruth Labode, MDC-A by Mr Ian Makone and Mr Jacob Mafume, while Mr Themba Mliswa attended as an independent candidate, with Justice Chigumba expressing satisfaction with the engagement.
“I am happy with the outcome. We had a robust debate, robust questions, and answers, so I am very happy. It is our second multi-party liaison meeting with political players in Parliament. I am hopeful that going forward we will continue inviting them, we will continue to talk to them and discuss with them. We will continue to debate issues around the application of the electoral topical issues,” said Justice Chigumba.
Such interactive platforms will nurture an environment of tolerance, moving away from needless polarisation, she said.